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» 2016 Slot vs. Wide: Defense

Our final part in looking at slot vs. wide targets focuses entirely on defenses. Which first-round rookie corners had tough times in 2016? Who was the weak link in Denver's No-Fly Zone? Also: the Falcons have a secondary to watch out for in 2017.

11 Jan 2017

FEI 2016 Final Ratings

by Brian Fremeau

If you had told me before the championship game that Clemson would punt nine times against Alabama, I would have told you that the Crimson Tide were probably going to win. In the 2016 season, teams that punted at least nine times in a game went 19-79 (.193) and lost by an average of 20.5 points per game. Alabama had forced five of its opponents to punt at least nine times in a game this season, and they won all five of those games (including the College Football Playoff semifinal over Washington) by an average margin of victory of 35.6 points.

Since 2008, the Crimson Tide had forced a total of 22 opponents to punt at least nine times in a game, and Alabama won all 22 of those games by an average final score of 37-6. They didn't allow more than 15 points in any of those games.

On Monday night, Clemson punted nine times against Alabama. Clemson won.

If you had told me before the championship game that Alabama would win the turnover margin battle by two, I would have told you that the Crimson Tide were probably going to win. In the last ten years in FBS games, teams that won the turnover margin battle by at least two turnovers won 82.5 percent of the time. In the same span, the entirety of the Nick Saban era in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide were a perfect 35-0 when winning the turnover margin battle by at least two turnovers.

On Monday night, Clemson had two turnovers to Alabama's zero. Clemson won.

If you had told me before the championship game that Alabama would dominate the field position battle, I would have told you that the Crimson Tide were probably going to win. Alabama's average starting field position was its own 35-yard line and the Crimson Tide started only two offensive possessions from inside their own 20-yard line. Clemson's average starting field position was its own 23-yard line and the Tigers started seven offensive drives from inside their own 20-yard line.

Based on starting field position alone, an average offense playing an average defense would have been expected to score 5.7 fewer points with Clemson's starting field position than with Alabama's. And the Crimson Tide had been particularly formidable in defending long fields, allowing only two scoring drives all season on opponent possessions started more than 80 yards from the end zone.

On Monday night, Clemson had touchdown scoring drives of 87 and 88 yards. Clemson won.

The 2016 National Championship game played out pretty much exactly as Alabama would have wanted it to, with a few key exceptions. The first is that the Crimson Tide, for the first time all season, couldn't convert opponent turnovers into points. A pair of Clemson fumbles, one in the first half and one in the second half, left Alabama with the two best field position opportunities either team would have in the entire game. The Tide wasted the first entirely, losing 7 yards and punting on a drive that started at the Clemson 35-yard line. The second was a failure as well, 7 yards on three plays on a drive that started at the Clemson 16-yard line, concluding with a field goal.

The turnovers were worth a total of 8.4 points based on the resulting field position, but Alabama netted only three points on those two drives. Blowing those 5.4 points was huge in a game they would go on to lose by only four points.

The second biggest issue with how the game played out was that it lasted too many possessions. The Crimson Tide won 110 games against FBS opponents since 2007, and on average their opponents possessed the ball a total of 12.7 times per game. Through the first 26 possessions of the national championship game, Alabama led 24-21. They allowed only 11 yards on nine plays on Clemson's next two possessions after that point. But the final two Tigers drives -- the 16th and 17th of the game with Alabama's offense on the field -- both went for touchdowns. Until Monday night, Alabama's defense under Saban had never taken the field in a single game on 17 non-garbage opponent possessions.

I thought Clemson would need to play a perfect game to beat Alabama, and they played far from it. But they were able to extend the game to a point no team had ever really done against the Crimson Tide, and they executed perfectly when it mattered most on those final two possessions.

The final FEI ratings below still have Alabama ranked No. 1 and Clemson ranked No. 2. The head-to-head matchup represents 11.4 percent of Clemson's final rating and 12.5 percent of Alabama's final rating. The Tigers finished the year with eight opponent-adjusted single game efficiency ratings in the 90th percentile in all of college football. Alabama had 12 such games.

The biggest difference between the two teams' overall FEI ratings is their worst performances of the year. Alabama's 48-43 victory over Ole Miss (47th overall in FEI) ranks in the 84th percentile, and the loss to Clemson ranks in the 87th percentile. Clemson's 30-24 win over Troy (77th percentile) and 43-42 loss to Pittsburgh (69th percentile), both at home, were worse than either of Alabama's two worst games in terms of opponent-adjusted efficiency. They weren't albatrosses -- Clemson finishes with the best FEI rating for a No. 2 team I've measured -- but the Alabama resume is still distinct.

Alabama won the national championship in 2011 but finished third overall in FEI. This year they stand ahead of the team that dethroned them. Sometimes the games play out as expected, and sometimes even that isn't enough.

FEI Final Ratings

The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) is a college football rating system based on opponent-adjusted drive efficiency. Approximately 20,000 possessions are contested annually in FBS vs. FBS games. First-half clock-kills and end-of-game garbage drives and scores are filtered out. Unadjusted game efficiency (GE) is a measure of net success on non-garbage possessions, and opponent adjustments are calculated with special emphasis placed on quality performances against good teams, win or lose. Overall SOS ratings represent the likelihood than an elite team (two standard deviations better than average) would go undefeated against the given team's entire schedule.

Offensive FEI (OFEI) is value generated per offensive non-garbage possession adjusted for the strength of opponent defenses faced. Defensive FEI (DFEI) is value generated per opponent offensive non-garbage possession adjusted for the strength of opponent offenses faced. Special Teams Efficiency (STE) is the average value generated per non-garbage possession by a team's non-offensive and non-defensive units.

Ratings for all teams are linked here.

Rk Team Rec FEI GE Rk SOS Rk OFEI Rk DFEI Rk STE Rk
1 Alabama 13-1 .350 .276 2 .034 3 .69 19 1.84 1 .02 48
2 Clemson 13-1 .320 .180 8 .027 1 1.01 6 .84 9 .00 65
3 Ohio State 11-2 .277 .233 5 .042 4 .76 15 1.22 2 .02 49
4 Michigan 10-3 .242 .261 3 .110 27 .81 11 .89 8 .22 1
5 Washington 11-2 .229 .288 1 .105 25 .96 8 1.17 3 .06 26
6 Wisconsin 11-3 .210 .145 13 .068 10 .44 34 .95 5 -.01 71
7 Oklahoma 11-2 .206 .173 10 .196 40 1.38 2 .08 53 .00 60
8 LSU 7-4 .198 .138 18 .087 17 .49 31 1.14 4 -.15 127
9 Florida State 9-3 .190 .083 36 .062 8 .84 10 .24 41 -.12 123
10 Miami 8-4 .188 .131 20 .224 47 .17 50 .57 13 .06 25
11 Penn State 11-3 .180 .128 21 .080 14 .72 17 .20 48 .05 28
12 USC 10-3 .178 .166 11 .055 5 .65 22 .26 37 .14 4
13 Western Michigan 12-1 .162 .252 4 .462 93 1.33 3 .22 44 .04 36
14 Auburn 7-5 .152 .125 24 .029 2 .47 32 .56 14 .10 11
15 Oklahoma State 9-3 .147 .094 34 .271 58 .64 23 .21 47 .03 43
Rk Team Rec FEI GE Rk SOS Rk OFEI Rk DFEI Rk STE Rk
16 Western Kentucky 10-3 .143 .219 6 .132 32 .99 7 .26 38 .11 7
17 Louisville 9-4 .140 .192 7 .098 20 .79 13 .50 19 -.03 86
18 Virginia Tech 9-4 .135 .112 28 .103 24 .06 61 .51 18 .03 46
19 Boise State 10-3 .132 .175 9 .507 105 .58 26 .52 17 -.08 109
20 Tennessee 8-4 .130 .061 44 .147 37 .56 28 -.05 65 .05 30
21 Florida 9-4 .126 .108 31 .056 6 -.42 100 .95 6 .10 10
22 Washington State 8-4 .123 .133 19 .301 66 .68 20 .23 43 .03 44
23 Pittsburgh 7-5 .120 .045 49 .057 7 .86 9 -.48 97 .04 38
24 North Carolina 6-5 .119 .040 52 .224 48 .38 35 -.29 76 .09 13
25 Colorado 9-4 .118 .062 43 .097 19 -.03 67 .92 7 -.09 113
26 Houston 8-4 .118 .115 27 .359 74 .15 52 .55 15 .04 40
27 West Virginia 9-3 .109 .073 39 .261 55 .18 47 .52 16 -.04 88
28 BYU 8-4 .109 .098 33 .443 90 -.05 70 .47 23 .13 6
29 Toledo 8-4 .105 .140 15 .452 91 1.10 4 -.11 67 -.03 78
30 Stanford 10-3 .102 .111 30 .203 42 -.21 79 .61 11 .16 3

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 11 Jan 2017

12 comments, Last at 15 Jan 2017, 5:31pm by mehllageman56

Comments

1
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/11/2017 - 4:46pm

It's interesting that Alabama actually punted more than Clemson did.

Alabama had been decent in 9+ punting games, losing only Saban's 5th game.
http://cfbref.com/tiny/qa0Q1

That said, there had been a couple of rock fights in there. Alabama actually punted more in their last two games than they had in any four game stretch prior to that.

2
by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 01/11/2017 - 5:20pm

Their offense became unbalanced, relying too much on the run game. They tried to pass, but weren't successful at it against Washington or Clemson. Scarborough going down really hurt them.

11
by gomer_rs :: Fri, 01/13/2017 - 1:36pm

It became pretty clear that Alabama's O-Line couldn't win consistently against top tier d-lines. Scarborough's loss hurt so much because no other Bama back could survive first contact as well.

On Scarborough's 68 yard TD against Washington he broke two tackles in the backfield.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

3
by big10freak :: Thu, 01/12/2017 - 8:30am

While I appreciate the Wisky ranking seems a bit high. Same with Michigan.

Boy did Pittsburgh have an underrated season.

4
by NYMike :: Thu, 01/12/2017 - 10:07am

Wisconsin lost to teams ranked 3, 4 and 11. They beat teams ranked 8 and 13. They led the nation in time of possession, and since FEI is drive-based, it would love that. UW's offense was solid, but not explosive ... very few three-and-outs, and very few quick strikes. And their defense was championship quality.

6
by big10freak :: Thu, 01/12/2017 - 11:16am

Understand all that. And I know the algorithm is going to generate based on the inputs provided. But as a Wisconsin fan and a Big10 fan, my sense is that this ranking is a bit high.

But that is just one lay person's opinion

7
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/12/2017 - 11:54am

Who would you put over them?

Looking at the list, LSU, Auburn, and Miami jump out as over-rated, but I don't love any of the teams immediately behind them, either.

9
by big10freak :: Thu, 01/12/2017 - 2:55pm

Oklahoma and USC.

10
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 01/13/2017 - 10:14am

Oklahoma's best win is over a 5-loss Auburn team. They were utterly demolished at home by Ohio State.

USC's best wins (@Washington, home win over Penn State) are arguably a little better than Wisconsin's (home win over LSU, neutral over Western Michigan), but Wisconsin has better losses (OSU, @Michigan, neutral v Penn State) than USC (@Stanford, @Utah, utter curb-stomp at home vs Alabama).

The single comp game is Penn State, whom they played consecutively. USC won by 3 in what was essentially a home game. Wisconsin lost by 7 on a neutral site. Both came down to the final possession. That suggests to me those teams are pretty evenly matched, given the usual +3 from a home game.

5
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/12/2017 - 10:13am

Not really. Their defense was a dumpster fire.

Go back and watch that Clemson win. They gave up 630 yards. Fortunately, Clemson turned it over in the red zone three times.

But the better example might be the VT game. VT ran three plays the entire second half -- jump ball to Ford, jump ball to Hodges, QB draw. Pitt couldn't stop any of it.

Pitt had a world-beater offense and a defense that couldn't stop a high school team.

12
by mehllageman56 :: Sun, 01/15/2017 - 5:31pm

Their secondary is a dumpster fire. The Jets should draft all of the starters to see if their secondary could be worse next year. But I do like Dejuan Price as an edge rusher.

8
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/12/2017 - 1:37pm

Ranking college football teams is entertaining (thus accomplishing the primary objective), but the nonconnectivity of schedules and small sample size renders it forever extremely speculative. At least FEI isn't looking at w-l outcomes. It is always amusing to listen to paid yappers imbue entirely too much meaning to which team had the more happy end of a one score game that was in doubt until the very end.